New Delhi: Once the one-dayers in Ireland are over for Team India, the focus will inevitably turn to the Test series against England. India haven't won a Test series there since 1986 and if that feat has to be matched, it's the bowlers who have to deliver.
A strong England team completed a 3-0 demolition of the West Indies at Durham on Tuesday. In seamer-friendly conditions at home, England are a formidable force, especially in the seam bowling department manned by the likes of Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and the impressive new find Ryan Sidebottom.
"They have a more experienced Test attack than ours, there's no doubt about it. But that doesn't necessarily put the onus straight back to them," India captain Rahul Dravid said before departing from Mumbai.
Dravid's confidence stems from the personnel at his disposal. Zaheer Khan is the leader of a talented if inexperienced pack. Since his comeback, the left-arm fast bowler has looked better than ever with the new ball. In 47 Tests, the 28-year-old has 142 wickets; the only seamer in the Indian ranks with over 100 scalps.
"Zaheer Khan is an important in that part, he has the experience so he leads the attack. He is also the one who will have a big role to play in terms of mentoring some of the younger boys coming through," Dravid added.
Zaheer will share the new ball in all probability with S Sreesanth. Already a proven match-winner, Sreesanth has made rapid strides in almost a year. He bowled India to a memorable win at the Wanderers in November. In a young Test career, Sreesanth has claimed 37 wickets and shown the knack of ruffling the very best on his day.
The third seamer's spot will be a toss up between the left-arm pace of R P Singh and the swing of Ranadeb Bose. Bose has earned his spot after an impressive domestic season and believes that England will be ideally suited to his style of bowling.
"The level of cricket is obviously huge. I was playing club cricket and minor county cricket, whereas it is international cricket here. So, it's not going to be alien and maybe that will add to a little bit of confidence when I bowl there. But obviously I need to work hard and keep talking to players who have played international cricket for quite some time," Bose says.
The job of getting these men to perform at optimum level rests on the shoulders of bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad. The former India medium pacer took 15 wickets on the tour of England in 1996 and has the faith of an old friend, skipper Rahul Dravid.
"I'm sure he (Prasad) will be working hard with the boys, especially with a lot of the young seamers as to the kind of lines and lengths that he would like them to bowl. And I think as the tour goes on there will be a lot of opportunity for them to interact with him and get a chance with him to look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of the players, and see how he can help them out," Dravid says.
So the personnel are in place as is the arsenal. The Test series will be defined by how well these men use the red cherry.